I’m from Wisconsin and though we’ve had a warm winter so far, winter usually means lots of snow, cold temps and short days. I’ve been an avid hiker for much of my life and thought I knew what I was doing out there, but then, I had a kid! Making sure a toddler is warm and dry on the trail is something I never accounted for and frankly don’t wish on anyone, but if you are like me and want to take your tiny lunatic out on the trail, here are some helpful tips I’ve learned along the way.
Layers Are Key
First things first. LAYERS! I cannot stress this one enough. It’s almost impossible to tell what combination of clothing is going to work on any given day until we actually hit the trail. A sunny patch of trail and a cooperative toddler may mean we are both working up a sweat. However, a damp day with a slight wind may require that extra weird sweatshirt from your in-laws that got stuffed into the bottom of the backpack for “emergencies”. Well, this is an emergency. Break that bad boy out!
Specifically, I suggest a pair of insulated and waterproof snow pants and a jacket. A hat, scarf, waterproof boots and gloves. Along with sunhat and sunglasses for those extra sunny days.
Conquer Your Enemy: Gloves
Next, since we are on the subject of gloves already, let me be blunt. They are the nemesis of toddler winter wear! Toddlers hate them because they are restricting and keep them from picking things up. Mothers hate them because toddlers hate them. They are constantly pulling them off, losing them in the snow and exposing those cute, tiny fingers to the elements …which is the whole point in wearing gloves in the first place!
Am I yelling? I feel like I’m yelling. *takes a deep breath*
Anyway, one solution I’ve found is to bring several pairs of gloves and, in the event that they get lost in a snowbank, not to get too emotionally attached. I have found that Snowstopper gloves are great for staying on and keeping the cold and snow out. However, they do not have fingers which is a major source of frustration for my toddler, depending on his mood, so I recommend keeping a pair of those knit gloves on hand. We called them “magic mittens” growing up. They are usually sold at places like Target or Shopko in a 12 pack. Use them like tissues my friends and when those little fingers get too cold to handle it put the Snowstoppers back on or have a third pair (yea, that’s right…a THIRD pair) of big, dry, fluffy gloves to slip on over those cold fingers.
Whew! Who knew there was so much to say about gloves?! Toddlers. That’s who.
Snacks, Snacks, Snacks
Lastly, and possibly most important, I’d like to talk about snacks. Beside, trucks and trains, this is the single biggest motivator for my kid. Having enough fuel on the trail on cold and windy days is especially important to keep everyone warm and functioning.
At this point, my son has the vocabulary to tell me if he’s hungry, cold, tired, whatever, but not necessarily the wherewithal to express it. Usually by the time he notices we are already deep into a meltdown. Being proactive with snacks on the trail tends to keep us out longer.
I have found that having enough food on the trail and for the car ride home makes the difference between a day where we just managed to get out and a day where we got out and really enjoyed ourselves. On that note, foods that can be easily held with a gloved hand are best. Things like long carrots sticks, bananas and pretzel rods are great. Also, fruit bars. Not because they are easy to hold but because they are relentlessly sticky! They can’t drop what won’t fall, I say.
Last, pro snack tip, if you have the energy and forethought, tea is an amazing addition to any winter hike! My toddler loves everything about it. It’s warm, he can pour it himself, our thermos comes with a tiny toddler-sized cup and it’s delicious. Plus, it provides the perfect opportunity to take a break, sit down and enjoy the scenery.
These are my best tips to prepare for your next winter hike but I am certain there are other tricks out there I don’t know about, so please, in the name of toddlers everywhere, share them in the comments!
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About Hike it Baby
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Images courtesy of Stephanie Jacobson and Deanna Curry.